Member Guides: Writing for Roleplay

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Roleplaying nuances, tips, and other things related to roleplay. Roleplay is very different from writing by yourself -- so it stands to reason that there are different things you can do for success.

1.  Dialog

1.1  Avoiding Tangled Dialog

Don't make your character verbally respond to everything the other character says. In real conversation, you don't carefully respond to every single thing your partner says, right? Nodding, shaking one's head, shrugging, waving a hand or gesturing, and many other "non-verbal" responses can be used instead.

This allows the conversation to progress and avoids dialogue awkwardness where there are multiple concurrent, very different conversations. An extreme example: where two characters are simultaneously discussing the birth of their new puppies and the death of their leader (two very different conversations with two very different emotional tones).

1.2  Character Voice

  • Find your character's voice. Youtube clips, interviews, etc. You can write better dialogue if you have a good idea of what the character sounds like in your head.
  • Keep in mind various aspects about your character: a character with a limited vocabulary isn't going to use words like "alternative" or even "dialogue." They'll say "another" or "speaking" and they'll probably make grammatical mistakes than the character who is supposed to be intelligent and clever. A character who is completely unused to human technology isn't going to look at a spatula and say, "hey, a spatula" -- they're going to point at it and go "the long metal thing with a handle and the flat part at one end."
  • Keep in mind who your character is talking to: chances are, they won't address their pack leader in the same casual, comfortable manner they address their mate.

1.3  Other Tips

  • Listen to how real people speak. Not in the movies, not on TV, not over the radio, but real people: your friends, co-workers, etc. Scripted speech is never as good a thing to emulate as real conversation. However, be careful of the opposite: emulating real conversation exactly as it occurs might end up boring your reader. Media presents "truncated" conversations precisely because it's more exciting and less likely to bore the crap out of the viewer with small talk and mindless chatter.

1.4  "Said"

One of the oft-repeated tips for beginning writers is to avoid the use of the word "said." This is good advice -- and it's also bad advice. It's good advice because it is repetitive to read, "Character said" fifteen times over in a post. It's bad advice because many writers will go overboard, and never use the word said. Said is a perfectly valid word, and the reason why it works so well is because it is completely neutral. There's no emotion in the word said, and so the reader tends to "skip over" it. Conversely, if every time your character speaks, they're "whispering" or "screaming" or "demanding" the reader notices those words, and they can be very distracting.

Solid advice: use "said" most frequently, and use alternative words sparingly and where their emotion makes sense.

1.5  Foreign Dialogue

When your character speaks a foreign language, this can get a little trickier. You can use the old "translation" method, which is a HTML code that provides the English translation when hovering over the foreign language:

 <b title="English here">Foreign words here'''

Keep in mind the above can be extremely annoying and distracting for the reader: they have to hover over each piece of your character's dialogue to see the English and understand it. You're probably using a translator anyway, unless you already speak the language. So, it's much easier to just do this:

 "Yeah, I know. Worst luck," he said. His Arabic was smooth and flowing, much unlike his jerky and stilted English.

This accomplishes virtually the same thing, is much easier to read, and is much less taxing to write (no coding, no translating). If you really want to differentiate between your character's different languages, you can use a table with two different font colors or styles, and include a key at the bottom of your table explaining which style correlates to which language.

2.  Writing a Great Starting Post

2.1  Thread Starting

Adhering to the setting of the game is especially important. 'Souls already has a playable area and a specific description for much of this. If you have a small, random idea for a thread setting -- such as a particular hill; a old, forgotten burial plot in the woods; a particular stand of trees -- feel free to include it if it makes sense for the surrounding! Roleplaying in what seems to be a strange area not a part of 'Souls -- e.g., referencing your character trudging though desert sands and passing cactus trees -- isn't realistic! Unrealistic starter posts can result in your thread partner having a very difficult time formulating a reply.

  • Does the weather make sense for the time of year it is?
    Blizzards don't happen in summer, and sweltering hot days in the midst of winter are unlikely. You can follow the @halifaxweather Twitter account for updates, but you needn't remain exactly adherent to the weather stated therein.
  • Is it realistic for your thread partner to show up in the area you intend?
    For example, if you start a thread within Anathema, deep within the cave system, but it's intended for a character outside of the pack, you're putting your thread partner in an extremely awkward situation -- their character has to trespass deep into Anathema's territory to meet up with your character in the first place, which is actually against the rules of the game!

    In other, less-extreme cases, it just doesn't make sense for a character to be in a certain spot: e.g., for Inferni packmates Coyote and Jackal, Coyote might be hanging out in his private cave. Jackal looks like kind of a jerk walking into Coyote's cave uninvited, unless Jackal's player writes a boring, uninspired post about Jackal beckoning to come in. It's not strictly unrealistic for Jackal to barge in on Coyote's cave, but it does put the player in an awkward spot and might be avoided.

3.  Writing a Great Reply

So, you want to write an awesome reply? There are a few main things you should think about.

3.1  Post Length

See The RP Guide: Writing Section.

It's a good idea to try to match your partner, although you should always write what is most comfortable for you. If you find your posts are consistently much shorter than your partner's posts, consider trying to write a little bit more. It can be troubling to receive replies that are much shorter than you're used to.

3.2  Giving the Other Player Action

Have your character speak! Have your character move! Have something happen in your post and give the other player something to write about. Even if your character doesn't do something directly, something can change in the scenery that gives everyone something to do. This is useful if the thread seems to be stagnating.

For example, if your characters are sitting around a fire, your character could note that the fire is getting low, prompting someone to fetch more wood. If it was noted earlier in the thread that it was raining, the rain could increase greatly in intensity, or it could stop altogether. Other small changes regarding scenery and the like can change up the flow of a thread without completely interrupting its purpose.

Make sure if you want to throw something at a player that's completely out of left field or changes the planned intent of the thread, you check with them first to make sure they don't mind.

3.3  RE-READ!

Read back over not only the player's previous post, but perhaps a few posts back in the thread. This can prevent repetitive dialogue and subjects covered in your post in general, and keep the general feel and flow of a thread consistent throughout.

3.4  Pre-Write

If it helps you, list the things the other character has done that require reaction. You can build a "skeleton" from your list, and continue adding relevant sentences and ideas, eventually building an entire post. This helps to avoid forgetting a crucial action of the other player.

4.  OOC Assumptions

OOC assumptions are great for avoiding repeitive RP -- It can sure be boring roleplaying the same thing over and over again! With OOC statements, however, it's important to remember a few things.

  • You must clear with any other involved players what's going on, otherwise it's powerplay! You cannot write even assumptions regarding anyone else's characters without explicit permission.
  • You must allow for proper In Character time to pass.
  • Remember, this doesn't work for co-ranks, In Character-based rank systems (e.g., Anathema, AniWaya), the Catacombs, and some other aspects of 'Souls. If you're not sure, ask.
  • Assumptions should not be relied upon -- after all, the fun part is roleplaying -- but this can be a way to avoid things you've covered before and repetitive, "boring" threads.
  • Roleplayers who have a character possessing a particular skill should still be open to threading about their skills -- sometimes, players should not (and cannot, for co-ranks and IC rank advancement) OOC'ly assume things.

4.1  Examples

For example, if you want your character to get better at something, you can have a single thread at the beginning of their training where they learn the basics of the desired skill with another character. Then, for the next few weeks or months (depending on the skill!), in your other threads with that character, reference on-going training. This is a useful way to eat up "empty time" with your character when they're not actively involved with a thread and should be a way to primarily avoid the things that you have roleplayed before.

A simpler example could be a character who dyes his or her fur. While it's a good idea to roleplay the dyeing out at least once, you can also write as if the dye changes colors, fading with time and becoming suddenly much brighter and sharper in color as the character re-does the dye job. You could reference your character dyeing their fur on occasion in their threads, and variance of color in their fur can lend realism!

Example with Time Passage

For example, Coyote in Inferni wants to build a small shelter on the edge of the territory, which Jackal will assist him with. Coyote and Jackal could thread about it once, and from that point on, Coyote and Jackal both would reference on-going building in their other threads and posts.

  • For example, the thread where Coyote and Jackal initially build the framework and foundation for the shelter is dated 03 March 2011.
  • Assuming the shelter is a one-room shed with enough room for a Luperci to stand, with a working door and windows, as well as furniture, it may take as long as three weeks to complete, longer if there is poor weather (it's much harder to work in the rain, after all).
  • You can therefore begin having threads referencing the finished shelter around 24 March 2011.
  • Threads dated between the starting and finishing date should reference the unfinished shelter and continued work on it.

4.2  Member Tips

Members: Feel free to add your own tips, however brief, here! Remember, you can sign your tip with four tildes (~)

  • Something that was once told to me: Be careful with overlapping actions between posts. It can make it hard for your partner to reply, or create instances of PP that you might not have planned for. If you like to include previous details, try to be very specific about when it happened in relation to when your partner's actions happened. ~ Kiki
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